Page:While the Billy Boils, 1913.djvu/350

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318
MACQUARIE'S MATE

'Don't you―don't you talk about him! Drop it, I say! Drop it!'

'What the devil's the matter with you now, anyway?' growled the barman. 'Got 'em again? Hey?'

'Don't you―don't you talk about Macquarie! He's a mate of mine! Here! Gimme a drink!'

'Well, what if he is a mate of yours?' sneered Barcoo. 'It don't reflec' much credit on you―nor him neither.'

The logic contained in the last three words was unanswerable, and Awful Example was still fairly reasonable, even when rum oozed out of him at every pore. He gripped the edge of the bar with both hands, let his ruined head fall forward until it was on a level with his temporarily rigid arms, and stared blindly at the dirty floor; then he straightened himself up, still keeping his hold on the bar.

'Some of you chaps' he said huskily; 'One of you chaps, in this bar to-day, called Macquarie a scoundrel, and a loafer, and a blackguard, and―and a sneak and a liar.'

'Well, what if we did?' said Barcoo, defiantly. 'He's all that, and a cheat into the bargain. And, now, what are you going to do about it?'

The old man swung sideways to the bar, rested his elbow on it, and his head on his hand.

'Macquarie wasn't a sneak and he wasn't a liar,' he said, in a quiet, tired tone; 'and Macquarie wasn't a cheat!'

'Well, old man, you needn't get your rag out about it,' said Sally Thompson, soothingly. 'P'r'aps we was a bit too hard on him; and it isn't altogether